Nicholas Michael Pearson, 1969-2017

I came back from Sebring on Monday night, set my phone down, and started writing a few things for the upcoming week. When I looked at my phone again it was blinking furiously with messages from people trying to reach me: via Instagram, through my brother, through mutual friends. I called one of them back. “There’s no easy way to say it,” he told me. “We lost Nick tonight.”

My God, I thought, some idiot killed him in his own car. Nick was in the process of trying to sell his one-owner 2004 SRT-4. Since he’d never harbored any ill will towards anyone, Nick always assumed the same of others. He must have let some kid test-drive the 400-horsepower Neon on those Kentucky backroads. Must have gone with him to explain how the car worked. Things must have gone wrong. For a moment, I fervently hoped that the driver had suffered unimaginable pain before dying himself.

But it wasn’t so. Nick had been training for the next BMX race on his rollers, right next to his wife on her elliptical machine, when the heart attack happened. He didn’t make it to the hospital.

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Like A (Flightless) Bird

Just an update on my supremely expensive and self-indulgent recherches du temps perdu. Took the Master Cruiser out last night. Was able to easily make a 14″ bunnyhop. That’s pretty lousy by my pre-middle-age standards, but given the fact that I’ve broken ten bones and been operated on three times since January of 2014, I’ll take it. Those of you who want some context for this can click on the jump and see the 32-year-old me doing the same thing.

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Suddenly It’s 1986!

I’ve been putting bikes together since I Vise-Gripped brother Bark’s Huffy Stu Thomsen into adjustment thirty-two years ago. So it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that it took me the best part of an hour to assemble my 1986 Haro Lineage Master Cruiser using a variety of primarily automotive tools. I don’t know what happened to all of my bike stuff in the past ten years. The good news is that I was able to find the two really expensive but almost necessary items that made adjusting the rear U-brake less of a chore — my cable cutter and third-hand tool that I bought from Park Tools during the (only) Clinton Administration.

The Master Cruiser (as opposed to the Master Compressor, which is a Jaeger LeCoulture watch costing between five and hundred times as much as this bike) is a deliberate historical fabrication. The first skatepark-oriented 24-inch Haro was the Nyquist X24 Backtrail. I bought one in 2001 and rode it almost every day for about a year. I remember it very well because while I was riding it at the skatepark in Lancaster, Ohio after work one afternoon I hung up the back wheel on the coping of a seven-foot quarterpipe. I lost both feet and tumbled to the asphalt, ringing my bell hard enough to taste colors and putting a sprain in my left ankle that never really went away.

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“The Church Gap”

I remember Jimmy LeVan very well. He and I raced Superclass together at the Louisville BMX track between 1991 and 1994. He was a natural talent, but he was also heedlessly courageous and thoroughly devoted to his craft. Somewhere in my basement is one of the first twenty or so T-shirts that S&M bikes made for him. It was yellow, with a can of Jif on the front that had been redrawn to say “Jim”.

He was braver than I was. Not just because he would try stuff that was obviously stupid and/or risky, but because he lived the BMX lifestyle when I was too much of a coward to join him. While I sat in 400-level classes debating philosophy and poetry, he was on the road, sleeping in a car, doing odd jobs or even panhandling for gas money, traveling the country and riding for the sheer joy of it. I closed my mail-order bike shop on my father’s orders and got a real job, working for Ford Credit. Jimmy started a stunted stub of a BMX brand (Metal Bikes) and toured the world promoting it by doing the stunts and the gap that nobody else would do.

In the video above, you can see Jimmy making “The Church Gap” in Austin. Click the jump to see somebody trying to imitate him, and failing…

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Suddenly It’s 1978!

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I don’t think of myself as a lucky person — too many broken bones and too many outsized consequences for small mistakes — but sometimes I do have fate on my side. Here’s an example: About 72 hours ago, somebody listed an old bike for sale on Pittsburgh’s Craigslist. I was sitting around Thursday night when I was struck with a sudden desire to search for this particular bike. Never before in my life had I searched for this bike, and I mean never. My search brought up the bike, which had been listed about four hours previously. As it happened, this weekend was the one weekend I planned on having open between now and May, so I was able to go to Sewickley, PA and get it for the considerable sum of $140.

It was a remarkable coincidence that somebody would list this bike within driving distance and I’d have the idea to look for it, all on the same day. So what did I get?

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Review: 2014 Honda CB1100 vs. 1975 Honda CB550

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This is something for which I’ve been asked a few times, both on this forum and elsewhere, but for a variety of reasons I’ve been too lazy to write it up. As some of you know, I bought a leftover 2014 Honda CB1100 Standard in July and have since put about 2,700 miles on it despite the various inconveniences of travel and tibia fractures.

The CB1100, like the Volkswagen Phaeton, was a home-market smash brought to the United States to the annoyance of a dealer body that didn’t want it and wasn’t sure how to sell it. It was sold here for two model years — 2013 and 2014 — and in two trim levels — Standard and Deluxe. The Standard was $10,399 and the Deluxe was $11,899. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, the chromed-out Deluxe sold pretty well but the all-black 2014 Standard was a tough sell. Which is how I picked mine up at a thirty-percent discount this year.

Long-time readers of my various websites and blogs may remember that I owned a cafe-racer-style ’75 CB550 for a while before the turn of the century and that I bought another ’75 CB550, this one almost entirely stock, in the spring of 2012. So how does this all-new Universal Japanese Motorcycle compare with one of the originals?

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Riders Ready

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Twenty minutes into John’s first afternoon at the track, some local kid, shirtless and dirty, on a rusty bike that was two sizes too big, rode into the first turn the wrong way. Avoiding him, John swerved, fell off his DiamondBack, and slid down the asphalt on his hands. I could hear him crying from two hundred feet away.

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